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In Michael Collins I found the embodiment of that Irish virtue and tragedy Michael Collins remains one of the most obscure and controversial heroes in Irish history A survivor of the disastrous 1916 Easter Rising Collins forged the fragments of the revolutionary movement into a ruthless underground army that compelled the British to sue for peace Reluctantly serving as a treaty negotiator under the orders of the Irish president amon de Valera Collins returned in 1921 with an agreement that left the country in its current state of partition into an independent south and a unionist north De Valera and his followers refused to accept and civil war broke out The following year Collins was ambushed and murdered by extremist republicans Collinss life and death are apt metaphors for the long ongoing tragedy of Irish nationalism a tale of incandescent love of country savage violence gleeful melancholy and treachery Early on Collins erupts into its most spectacular moment -- British artillery blasting the handful of Republican volunteers defending the General Post Office in the Easter Rising Its the Irish equivalent of the Alamo and the terrible beauty addressed in Yeatss poem Easter 1916 can almost be glimpsed in the painstakingly re-created destruction carnage and valor Wooed by Boland and won by Collins when his friend and rival travels to America with de Valera in search of support she serves as a device to separate the two boys and inject feeling into passions that are largely theoretical The character who most projects the burning almost pathological patriotism that has fueled Irish nationalism to the present day is Alan Rickmans de Valera His aquiline eyes buttressed by rimless spectacles he writhes with a pinched fanatic devotion to his cause He emerges finally as the villain of the piece envious of Collinss popularity power and success he returns from America and nearly undoes the revolution by returning to more
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